PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Sand swept away and dunes damaged! Pinellas County is tallying up the erosion Tropical Storm Eta caused across miles of Pinellas County’s award-winning beaches.
Rick Gonterman, the manager of Caddy’s at Sunset Beach in Treasure Island, says it was unsettling to see the change Tropical Storm Eta brought to the slice of paradise outside the popular restaurant on the sand.
“It was pretty dramatic. Quite honestly. It could have been worse, and we’re grateful it wasn’t, but you can see the beach is much lower,” he explained while examining the beach.
Gonterman says the water comes up about 40 feet higher during high tide compared to where the water used to reach before Tropical Storm Eta. They also used to be able to fit four rows of chairs and now they can only fit two rows.
“Obviously, this is our real estate. This is our bread and butter. The more people we can pack on here on the sand, the better our business is doing,” Gonterman added.
Pinellas County coastal leaders tell ABC Action News dozens of miles of coastline from Indian Rocks Beach to Pass-A-Grille are severely eroded following the storm. Many beaches lost between three and four feet in height.
In Pass-A-Grille, Dr. John Bishop in Pinellas County’s Coastal Management team estimates 500,000 cubic yards of sand were lost and between 15 to 16 feet of dune.
“That’s pretty significant,” Bishop elaborated.
In Treasure Island, Tropical Storm Eta created a lake half-way between the beach access and the ocean and knocked over a sandcastle for this upcoming weekend’s Sanding Ovations Festival that took nearly 500 hours combined for several artists to build.
“It was probably 10 tons of sand that was all washed away,” Clyde Smith at the Bilmar Beach Resort explained.
Luckily, by Monday morning, mother nature had taken care of the problems she caused, leaving the beach dry again.
“Now it’s all dry. We’re good to go and Standing Ovations is on,” Smith added.
Pinellas County leaders say Clearwater and Bellaire Beaches barely saw any damage. Most of the damage was from Indian Rocks Beach South.
While Pass-A-Grille Beach is set to be re-nourished in 2022, county leaders say some beaches may not be replenished at all. The Army Corp of Engineers is now saying they don’t have enough signed easements from property owners along the beach to move forward on projects to add sand in the mid-county beaches in Indian Rocks, Indian Shores, Redington Beach and Redington Shores.
County leaders also say although North Redington Beach homeowners have returned an ample amount of easements, that part of the project may also be in jeopardy without easements from nearby beach communities.
“The Army Corp of Engineers has reiterated over and over again that they won’t come back and fill those beaches unless they have those easements and now a storm has come and removed the nourishment they just did so we are sort of back at the starting point,” Bishop added.
Bishop hopes the latest storm will encourage property owners on the beach to reconsider signing the easements because he says the extra sand and dunes are necessary to protect beachfront homes and businesses during any upcoming storms.